#InternationalGuideDogDay

April 26 is International Guide Dog Day, a chance to celebrate the countless beautiful handler-guide dog teams around the world. It is a day to honor not only the hard work we do with our companions but the circle of loving support that makes this work possible. From the families that encourage us to go in for training to the trainers, volunteers, and administrators who get our pups ready to work with us, we are surrounded by a web of kindness and commitment.

No handler can reach for her guide dog’s harness without realizing the power of collaboration. None of us could do this alone.

So, to celebrate guide dogs, I’m sharing a few of my favorite posts about York. Some of these have only lived on the blog while others have gone far afield into literary journals. Each piece immortalizes the intense gratitude and love I have for my brown-eyed boy, and for everyone who helped bring him into my life.

  • Working For Love (Guide Dog Training Part 1)” was the first essay I ever wrote about York, in June of 2014. Little did I know how often York would inspire me to literary action.
  • Quartet Beyond Measure” details how my barbershop quartet came together and adapted to our furry fifth member.
  • Of Dogs and Dragons” examines the beautiful and rewarding inter-species partnership in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series — and makes the case that her fantasy world of talking dragons and epic battles reflects our powerful real-world collaboration with service animals.
  • Working Resonance: Concerto for Guide Dog, Handler, and World“: I wrote this piece last April and it was published in The Hopper, an eco-literary journal from Green Writers Press in Vermont. To this day, “Working Resonance” is one of my favorite essays, a piece I am incredibly proud of. I reread it often because I believe it has a larger message than I even understood at the time. It expresses so much of what I want to achieve in the world.
  • How My Life Changed With a Guide Dog” started out as an open letter to the generous donors of Southeastern Guide Dogs, and it was picked up by a Jacksonville newspaper — further evidence that sincere gratitude cannot be contained.

I hope you enjoy these pieces and take a moment to thank your furry companions, even if they are not working dogs. If you want more wordsmithing about my adventures with York, just click the “guide dog” entry in the tag cloud on the right.

Happy International Guide Dog Day to all!

Advertisements

Honorable Mention in The Hopper’s Prize for Young Poets!

In June, I entered The Hopper‘s Prize for Young Poets. You remember The Hopper, the Vermont-based ecologically minded magazine that published one of my essays in May?  This contest called for a chapbook, a collection of 20-50 poems by a “young poet” (under 35) who had never published a collection before. So I shuffled and re-shuffled my poems, read them to myself, read them with friends, and sent them off!

Well, my manuscript, Natural Compliance, won Honorable Mention (3rd place) in this contest! I’m incredibly excited by such a distinction, and I’m quite proud of my little manuscript. Because The Hopper is so awesome, they wanted to profile me on their website and include a poem from the collection. Their profile features my poem “Kiwano,” hitherto unseen on the wilds of the Internet!

Here is their profile on me and my collection.

I want to thank the friends who helped me create and finalize this collection. You know who you are. We spent hours hunched over coffeeshop tables working and reworking these poems. You read the collection in one fell swoop to soothe my insecurities. You cheered me on. You told me I was worth it, whether I won or lost.

My friends, my readers, you are my blessing.

Essay: “Working Resonance: Concerto for Guide Dog, Handler, and World”

I’m excited to announce my first publication in The Hopper, an ecologically minded literary magazine from Green Writers Press! Today they published my essay, “Working Resonance: Concerto for Guide Dog, Handler, and World.” Here’s how it begins:

“In darkness, the audience rises, applauding the last performance of the evening. Before I can bang my hands together with wild abandon, I slide my guide dog’s leash back over my arm, into the crook of my elbow. My companion rises from his prone position and assumes a dignified sit, scanning from left to right. He recognizes the applause as a signal for our imminent departure.

The house lights come up, and I pull on my heavy coat. In the presence of my wiggly Labrador, this maneuver requires some concentration: hold York’s leash with left hand and slide right arm into sleeve, loop leash over right arm and slide left arm into sleeve, loop leash back over left arm and fasten inside buttons, fasten outside buttons, pick up crossbody bag and slide strap over left shoulder, don’t tangle with leash. When I’m fully equipped to handle the chilly night air, I stand beside York and we wait for the crowd to thin out.

‘Beautiful dog,’ a man remarks as he pauses by my seat. One foot rests on the next step up, and he leans around a large column to stare down at my pup. York’s shiny black fur contrasts with his leather guide harness. ‘Does he like the music?’

My hand moves to York’s silky ear, a gesture of habitual comfort. ‘Actually, he prefers Romantic composers. But he said he would come hear Mozart with me.’”

 

Read the entire piece here.